Sunday, September 12, 2010


I mentioned a few postings back that we were good friends with the barman at the Bonza Bay Hotel in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His name was Richard Tshawe, or at least that is how I understood it. Tshawe is apparently a clan name. Anyway, he was from Cofimvaba in the nominally independent Transkei, and we took it in turns to take him back home for a short visit, just for him to bring stuff back to his family. On one occasion my then wife Anne and I made the trek with Tshawe to his home town, which is roughly between Queenstown and Butterworth. It was an incredible chance to enter the heart of a community that was as rural as it had probably ever been, with very few mod cons at all.

I did a drawing on jelutong wood using a thick, black felt-tipped pen of a couple of the mud huts which comprise the village we visited. Working directly from that, I produced a very limited number of woodcuts. This is a detail of the scene.

As this quick sketch shows, the village is set among tall mountains.

While there I have only one real memory of what we did, and that was go into this dark, cold room where Tshawe had a deep freeze, which must have been run using some sort of battery or maybe even a generator. We mixed with a group of his peers, real madalas, some of whom I almost surreptitiously sketched, like this guy, who seems to have had eyesight problems.

It was wintry, and most of them wore thick coats and woolly hats, and puffed on pipes.

Sometimes those balaclavas ended up somewhat pointy. This lined paper seems still to have been a hangover from my two years in the military.

I rather like the proportions between this guy's tall headgear and his rather compressed, and severe, face.

Being winter, people were spotted sitting around their huts soaking up the weak sun and, as in this case, smoking on long, traditional Xhosa pipes. I was later to discover that Cofimvaba was the birthplace of Chris Hani, the SA Communist Party leader assassinated shortly before the first 1994 democratic elections.

A group of women in traditional Xhosa gear, also spotted enjoying a pipe in the sun.

And this seems to have been a shy piccanin, perched on an upturned bucket. I fear the term piccanin is a trifle patronising, but it was in common usage in those days.

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